Unwarranted opposition to new house

We certainly oppose McMansions replacing quaint cottages within the Cape Cod National Seashore, but the concerns raised by some to replace a 120-year-old, 568-square-foot cottage in North Truro with a new 1,162-square-foot house and small studio garage are misdirected.

“It’s definitely on our radar,” Truro Historical Commission Vice Chairman Charles Steinman said of plans to demolish the cottage, located north of Highland Light.

One North Truro woman has begun a letter-writing campaign to save the 568-square-foot house. She said the cottage was an original Small family house known as Spion Kop Cottage.

Lucy Small of Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., who is one of the sellers of the house, said it was originally built in 1900 as a wedding gift for a Small relative.

However, Kenneth Kuchin of Devon, Pennsylvania, bought the 2.6-acre property for $1.2 million from the Small family.

“We studied saving the building,” Kuchin told our reporter, Mary Ann Bragg. The lack of a foundation and the unusable fireplace and chimney tipped the scale in favor of new construction, he said. The footprint of the new cottage, as planned, is the same as the old one, including the porches, and with similar design elements, he said.

“I am sorry we were not able to modify the existing structure for year-round living,” Kuchin said.

The proposed size of the new cottage is “substantially under the town bylaw,” said attorney Benjamin Zehnder, who is representing Kuchin.

After receiving a notice of a demolition request on Dec. 1, the historical commission expects to hold a public hearing at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 20 at the public library.

The town should allow Kuchin to build his modest replacement.

Save the student loan interest deduction

U.S. student loan debt now equals the size of the $1.3 trillion U.S. high-yield corporate bond market, and delinquency rates on student loans are much higher than those on auto loans or mortgages. So why in the world would Congress consider eliminating the student loan interest deduction?

Although the Senate tax reform package would keep the deduction intact, the House bill eliminates deductions for student loan interest.

The House bill would also count graduate students’ tuition waivers as taxable income. That means a student who receives free tuition in exchange for research or teaching would be expected to pay taxes on the amount of tuition being waived, even though the student never sees a penny of that money. The Senate bill does not include this provision, but would levy a 1.4 percent investment income tax on college and university endowments exceeding $500,000 per student at universities with more than 500 students.

As House and Senate members now try to reconcile the differences in the two bills, we urge them to keep intact the student loan interest deduction as well as the graduate students’ tuition waiver.

Fortifying memories with four bricks

Holbrook R. Davis of Osterville recently shared with us a letter he sent to Brian Florence, the Barnsable building commissioner.

"The (former) Osterville Elementary School is being torn down," he wrote. "I attended that school in 1930, a good number of years ago. My short period of time there, from my point of view, was very special."

He then asked Florence if he could have one or two bricks from the building. "I would treasure them as a memento of a wonderful time in my life," he wrote.

Not long after Florence received the letter, Edwin Bowers, the Barnstable building inspector, left four bricks in Davis' garage.

"I am very grateful for this...," Davis wrote us.

And we are grateful to public servants who treat each citizen with respect, dignity and courtesy. Too often, our public servants are unfairly maligned.